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Unsung heroes in our midst

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By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent

HARRISON –

The Harrison American Legion Post 282 salutes Joseph Moscinski as 2013 Firefighter of the Year and Corey Karas as Police Officer of the Year on April 26 at 4 p.m. at the post, 8 Patterson St.

Moscinski, 38, a 12-year employee, was on a ladder truck responding to a fire at a two-family, 3-story house at 615 Central Ave. at around 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2013, and was credited with maneuvering his truck’s aerial ladder around several obstacles and venting the attic window, thereby allowing firefighters to advance with an interior attack of the fire.

“It allowed the smoke to safely vent out the front of the building instead of towards the exposures,” according to a statement released by the Harrison Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association local.

Moscinski told The Observer that while several of his colleagues were evacuating the building, he was initially helping stretch hose line to connect to the nearest hydrant.
At that point, Moscinski said, he returned to his truck and positioned its ladder directly in line with the fire side of the building but he had to “spin the ladder 360 degrees” to avoid trees, power lines and utility poles.

Then he “punched it straight through the [attic] window” to give the flames and smoke a path out of the building. “[The fire] was going pretty good,” he said.
At the same time, Moscinski said, the venting allowed firefighters dragging hose up the building’s stairwell to proceed up to the third floor. “Before that happened, they couldn’t advance for lack of ventilation,” he said.

The seven Harrison firefighters at the scene were soon joined by firefighters from Kearny and East Newark and, together, they managed to get the fire under control, keeping the blaze confined to the top floor where it burned through part of the roof.

Top photo courtesy Harrison FMBA; bottom photo courtesy Brian Fitzhenry Joseph Moscinski (top) and Mark Zidiak (l.) are 2013 Firefighters of the Year for Harrison and North Arlington, respectively.

Top photo courtesy Harrison FMBA;
bottom photo courtesy Brian Fitzhenry
Joseph Moscinski (top) and Mark
Zidiak (l.) are 2013 Firefighters of the
Year for Harrison and North Arlington,
respectively.

Cause of the fire was believed to be an electrical malfunction, between the attic and second floor.

The FMBA release referenced several other actions in which Moscinski was involved for which he was considered for the Legion award, “but this particular event stood out.”
Asked about the other incidents, Moscinski recalled one, in particular, last August when firefighters were called to a S. Third St. home on a report of “a man down.” where a man in his 60s visiting from Brooklyn had been working in the garden and collapsed of an apparent heart attack.

Initially, the firefighters – all of whom are trained in emergency first aid procedures – couldn’t get a pulse from the stricken man, but, in the ambulance transporting him to St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, Moscinski said he went along, continuing to perform CPR on the victim on the way.

“After we got the man to the hospital, one of the emergency room doctors came out and told me, ‘You must’ve done a good job because you saved his life.’ ’’

Moscinski and his wife Susan have two sons, Hayden, 6, and Gavin, 5, and a daughter Alyssa, 17, who will be going into the Navy after graduation from high school.

On the law enforcement side of the Legion ledger, Police Officer Corey Karas is being recognized. In a letter written to Legion Commander Robert Hartman, Harrison Police Capt. Michael Green characterized Karas as a “consistently high performer who takes little time away from the job and is always volunteering to advance his knowledge through training.”
Green said Karas “was involved in several high profile incidents that showcase his dedication to the department and the community and his professionalism as a police officer.”

Some of those incidents “have resulted in arrests for crimes ranging from street robberies to burglaries in progress,” said Green.

During 2013, Green said, Karas “was involved in several cases that removed significant amounts of drugs from our streets.” Working with U.S. Postal Service agents last October, “then-Detective Karas conducted an investigation that resulted in the arrest of two individuals for distributing narcotics,” Green said. “Close to eight pounds of marijuana, hashish and other dangerous drugs were seized and never made it to the streets of Harrison.”

Earlier this year, the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department selected 20-year veteran Mark Zidiak as its 2013 Firefighter of the Year.

The only two-time winner of the departmental award – he was a previous recipient in 2005 – Zidiak “has served this department in every capacity: fire inspector, training officer, hazmat officer, 2nd and 1st lieutenant, captain, deputy chief, assistant chief and chief,” said Deputy Fire Chief Brian Fitzhenry.

But, beyond that, Fitzhenry said, under Zidiak’s leadership, the department has secured federal and state funding for new equipment and training: $318,000 Assistance to Firefighter Grant for a new rescue rig, $290,548 AFG grant for 40 new SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) units, $285,000 AFG grant for a new engine and $104,000 SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant for training and recruitment.

Additionally, said Fitzhenry, with Zidiak’s help, the department got a free U.S. Army surplus personnel carrier, new portable radios and pagers, upgrades to its communications system and computer simulation and video training for its
fire stations.

Fitzhenry said that with Zidiak’s “hard work, dedication and effort into writing these grants on his own personal time … to help bring in over $1 million in federal grant subsidies to the N.A. Fire Department, taking away some of the tax burden for our residents and making the department safer for its firefighters, it would be safe to say that [Zidiak] is quite deserving [of the award].”

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